But ye are come unto mount Sion - In order to enter fully into the apostle's meaning, we must observe,
This phrase means the Church of the New Testament, as Schoettgen has amply proved in his dissertation on this subject.
To an innumerable company of angels - Μυριασιν αγγελων· To myriads, tens of thousands, of angels. These are represented as the attendants upon God, when he manifests himself in any external manner to mankind. When he gave the law at Mount Sinai, it is intimated that myriads of these holy beings attended him. "The chariots of the Lord are twenty thousand, even thousands of angels; the Lord is among them as in Sinai, in the holy place;" Psalm 68:17. And when he shall come to judge the world, he will be attended with a similar company. "Thousand thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him;" Daniel 7:10. In both these cases, as in several others, these seem to be, speaking after the manner of men, the body guard of the Almighty. Though angels make a part of the inhabitants of the New Jerusalem, yet they belong also to the Church below. Christ has in some sort incorporated them with his followers, for "they are all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister to them that shall be heirs of salvation," and they are all ever considered as making a part of God's subjects.
But ye are come unto Mount Sion - You who are Christians; all who are under the new dispensation. The design is to “contrast” the Christian dispensation with the Jewish. and to show that its excellencies and advantages were far superior to the religion of their fathers. It had more to win the affections; more to elevate the soul; more to inspire with hope. It had less that was terrific and alarming; it appealed less to the fears and more to the tropes of mankind; but still apostasy from this religion could not be less terrible in its consequences than apostasy from the religion of Moses. In the passage before us, the apostle evidently contrasts Sinai with Mount Zion, and means to say that there was more about the latter that was adapted to win the heart and to preserve allegiance than there was about the former. Mount Zion literally denoted the Southern hill in Jerusalem, on which a part of the city was built.
That part of the city was made by David and his successors the residence of the court, and soon the name Zion, was given familiarly to the whole city. Jerusalem was the center of religion in the land; the place where the temple stood, and where the worship of God was celebrated, and where God dwelt by a visible symbol, and it became the type and emblem of the holy abode where He dwells in heaven. It cannot be literally meant here that they had come to the Mount Zion in Jerusalem, for that was as true of the whole Jewish people as of those whom the apostle addressed, but it must mean that they had come to the Mount Zion of which the holy city was an emblem; to the glorious mount which is revealed as the dwelling-place of God, of angels, of saints. That is, they had “come” to this by the revelations and hopes of the gospel. They were not indeed literally in heaven, nor was that glorious city literally on earth, but the dispensation to which they had been brought was what conducted them directly up to the city of the living God, and to the holy mount where he dwelt above. The view was not confined to an earthly mountain enveloped in smoke and flame, but opened at once on the holy place where God abides. By the phrase, “ye are come,” the apostle means that this was the characteristic of the new dispensation that it conducted them there, and that they were already in fact inhabitants of that glorious city. They were citizens of the heavenly Jerusalem (compare note, Philemon 3:20), and were entitled to its privileges.
And unto the city of the living God - The city where the living God dwells - the heavenly Jerusalem; compare notes on Hebrews 11:10. God dwelt by a visible symbol in the temple at Jerusalem - and to that his people came under the old dispensation. In a more literal and glorious sense his abode is in heaven, and to that his people have now come.
The heavenly Jerusalem - Heaven is not unfrequently represented as a magnificent city where God and angels dwelt; and the Christian revelation discloses this to Christians as certainly their final home. They should regard themselves already as dwellers in that city, and live and act as if they saw its splendor and partook of its joy. In regard to this representation of heaven as a city where God dwells, the following places may be consulted: Hebrews 11:10, Hebrews 11:14-16; Hebrews 12:28; Hebrews 13:14; Galatians 4:26; Revelation 3:12; Revelation 21:2,10-27. It is true that Christians have not yet seen that city by the physical eye, but they look to it with the eye of faith. It is revealed to them; they are permitted by anticipation to contemplate its glories, and to feel that it is to be their eternal home. They are permitted to live and act as if they saw the glorious God whose dwelling is there, and were already surrounded by the angels and the redeemed. The apostle does not represent them as if they were expecting that it would be visibly set up on the earth, but as being now actually dwellers in that city, and bound to live and act as if they were amidst its splendors.
And to an innumerable company of angels - The Greek here is, “to myriads (or ten thousands) of angels in an assembly or joyful convocation.” The phrase “tens of thousands” is often used to denote a great and indefinite number. The word rendered “general assembly,” Hebrews 12:22 - πανήγυρις panēguris- refers properly to an “assembly, or convocation of the whole people in order to celebrate any public festival or solemnity, as the public games or sacrifices; Robinson‘s Lexicon. It occurs nowhere else in the New Testament, and refers here to the angels viewed as assembled around the throne of God and celebrating his praises. It should be regarded as connected with the word “angels,” referring to “their” convocation in heaven, and not to the church of the first-born. This construction is demanded by the Greek. Our common translation renders it as if it were to be united with the church - “to the general assembly and church of the first-born;” but the Greek will not admit of this construction.
The interpretation which unites it with the angels is adopted now by almost all critics, and in almost all the editions of the New Testament. On the convocation of angels, see the notes on Job 1:6. The writer intends, doubtless, to contrast that joyful assemblage of the angels in heaven with those who appeared in the giving of the Law on Mount Sinai. God is always represented as surrounded by hosts of angels in heaven; see Deuteronomy 33:2; 1 Kings 22:19; Daniel 7:10; Psalm 68:17; compare notes, Hebrews 12:1; see also Revelation 5:11; Matthew 26:53; Luke 2:13. The meaning is, that under the Christian dispensation Christians in their feelings and worship become united to this vast host of holy angelic beings. it is, of course, not meant that they are “visible,” but they are seen by the eye of faith. The “argument” here is, that as, in virtue of the Christian revelation, we become associated with those pure and happy spirits, we should not apostatize from such a religion, for we should regard it as honorable and glorious to be identified with them.
Angels are sent on missions of mercy to the children of God. To Abraham, with promises of blessing; to the gates of Sodom, to rescue righteous Lot from its fiery doom; to Elijah, as he was about to perish from weariness and hunger in the desert; to Elisha, with chariots and horses of fire surrounding the little town where he was shut in by his foes; to Daniel, while seeking divine wisdom in the court of a heathen king, or abandoned to become the lions’ prey; to Peter, doomed to death in Herod's dungeon; to the prisoners at Philippi; to Paul and his companions in the night of tempest on the sea; to open the mind of Cornelius to receive the gospel; to dispatch Peter with the message of salvation to the Gentile stranger—thus holy angels have, in all ages, ministered to God's people. GC 512.1
A guardian angel is appointed to every follower of Christ. These heavenly watchers shield the righteous from the power of the wicked one. This Satan himself recognized when he said: “Doth Job fear God for nought? Hast not Thou made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side?” Job 1:9, 10. The agency by which God protects His people is presented in the words of the psalmist: “The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear Him, and delivereth them.” Psalm 34:7. Said the Saviour, speaking of those that believe in Him: “Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of My Father.” Matthew 18:10. The angels appointed to minister to the children of God have at all times access to His presence. GC 512.2Read in context »